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Five-0 Redux

Turning out the vote

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<em>The CBS-produced promotional image of the three options mainland viewers had for this week's choose-your-own-adventure episode. (Courtesy CBS)</em>
The CBS-produced promotional image of the three options mainland viewers had for this week's choose-your-own-adventure episode. (Courtesy CBS)

“Your vote. Your ending. Tonight’s episode can be solved by you.”

Unless you live in Hawai‘i, that is.

This week’s episode of “Hawaii Five-0” took an interesting concept and created a bit of buzz and anticipation for a rather mundane procedural. “Kapu,” translated by CBS to mean “Forbidden,” was not unlike those choose-your-own-ending adventures where “you” would make the decisions to solve the case and see how the novel ended. These were books geared towards elementary and middle school boys, although there were a series of romance novels seemingly geared towards girls.

Does this mean “Hawaii Five-0” writers see us as the equivalent to middle school children who need a special promotion to keep our attention? I hope not. Yet from the set up of the procedural, it seemed as if it was kept simple enough for us to stay with the story and make a decision on the killer. This week’s episode was hyped as a historic television event, but I found it hard to be excited when Hawai‘i fans could not vote on the outcome.

But I moved on. From the start, the episode kept me on my toes — though not always in a good way. It seemed as if the episode moved so fast I wondered if I was missing anything.  The dead body Professor Cutler dropped into a vat of acid, albeit completely gross, definitely set up a murder, and then we were introduced to the three “killers” — Cutler’s boss, Patrick Roth; the teaching assistant, Bram Helms; and the red herring student, Rebecca.

<em>Chin (Daniel Dae Kim), left, discusses this week's case with Danno (Scott Caan) and McGarrett (Alex O'Loughlin), right. (Courtesy CBS)</em>
Chin (Daniel Dae Kim), left, discusses this week's case with Danno (Scott Caan) and McGarrett (Alex O'Loughlin), right. (Courtesy CBS)

After our intrepid McG and Danno engage in a pink Vespa car chase, they find that Rebecca is just a student who wants to get a good grade by taking uppers and trying to beat who she calls “the cheaters,” who have been buying exams and skewing the grading curve. So the Five-0 gents head back to O‘ahu State University to find the cheating student, who is caught by Danno’s nephew (Andrew Lawrence) — who seems to know a thing or two about cheating himself.

If you’re still with me, things seemed to move even faster after McG made a nice tackle of the TA to find out why he was selling exams. After searching Cutler’s home to gather more intel, then it was back to the lab to have Fong (Brian Yang) give them a key piece of information about an extinct Hawaiian plant that Cutler seemed to have brought back to life. That leads the team to Ni‘ihau, the Forbidden Island.

Now the theme kicks in, as not only is Ni‘ihau called the Forbidden Island because of its self imposed isolation, but also because of all the reasons Chin provided — it is a private island, owned by the Robinson family, and you must have special permission to visit the island. Ni‘ihau is home to about 130 Native Hawaiians who speak Hawaiian and live off the land, making beautiful jewelry with the unique Ni‘ihau shells found on their shores. Their lei pūpū o Niʻihau, or Ni‘ihau shell lei, and can be sold for thousands of dollars.

This part of the episode I really liked, as I loved that Chin had an entire scene with a Ni‘ihau resident in Hawaiian. I loved that it was not subtitled — I’m sure it bothered some to not know what was being said, but I was thankful that they cast a real ‘ōlelo Hawai‘i speaker, the stunning Tuti Kanahele, to play the Ni‘ihau village elder. Kanahele, a professor of Hawaiian Language at Windward Community College, spoke in the Ni‘ihauan dialect — which according to Wikipedia, “differs from modern Hawaiian in that, for example, [t] and [r] are the most common realizations of the phonemes /k/ and /l/.” 

<em>Andrew Lawrence, right, joined the cast this week as Danno's nephew from New York. (Courtesy CBS)</em>
Andrew Lawrence, right, joined the cast this week as Danno's nephew from New York. (Courtesy CBS)

Daniel Dae Kim did a nice job in his response, and I was thrilled that the scene was so realistic. Bravo, “Hawaii Five-0” for using the Hawaiian language to give everyone a beautiful image of our people and culture.

But I digress. Once Chin Ho gets a good piece of information from Kanahele’s character, he and McG find the botanist (Jeff Fahey) who had been working with Professor Cutler to find the plant Fong identified that grows on Ni‘ihau in order to save his cancer-stricken son.

Did you get all that? There was just so much information smashed into an hour — well, less than an hour as we also had several commercials interrupting our viewing reminding us to vote. Which I couldn’t do, since I live in Hawai‘i. And I haven’t even started to tell you about the subplot involving Kono babysitting cooperating witness Sang Min. His arrival scene, where he greets the “still spicy” Kono, was a great touch of comedy, and the scene when he sat outside his wife’s house watching her have dinner with his son and her new husband, was touching and a nice way to bring Sang Min back into the plot.

I like Will Yun Lee, and am glad he is back as the bad guy turned good. Perhaps we shouldn’t trust Sang Min, but there is definitely something about him that I like.

Oh, wait, did I forget to mention who ended up being the killer? In the Hawai‘i episode, our killer was the student, Tyler Brown. The east coast voted for the boss, Patrick Roth, as the killer. Regardless of which killer you got to see be taken down by Chin and McG, the motive for both was that they wanted to take Cutler’s information and take the credit and the money that the cancer cure could generate. Sort of an anti-climatic ending, if you ask me. I was way more interested in the Ni‘ihau scenes, the Uncle Danno lessons he was trying to impart on his wayward nephew, as well as the scenes with Kono and Sang Min.

Again, the procedural, as well as the hyped vote for the killer, was far less interesting than the development of our leads and a few of the peripheral characters.

I am crossing my fingers that this Sunday’s episode will be far more fulfilling. It looks like Sang Min and several other bad guys will be returning to wreak havoc for our team. I only hope that the gimmicks get left behind and we return to our regular action-packed, cargument-filled, bromantic episodes.

I would definitely vote for that.

Redux Side Note:

Local Hawai‘i actor Wayne Coito played the part of the room service attendant who brought Sang Min his jumbo shrimp meal. Coito was featured in the film “Princess Ka‘iulani,” as well as in the television shows “I’m Alive” and “Off the Map,” the latter of which was also filmed in Hawai‘i.

There will be three episodes of “Hawaii Five-0” in a row starting Saturday, Jan. 19, with a repeat of “Lekiō” with special guest stars James Caan and Dennis Miller. Sunday, Jan. 20 is a special episode that will air after the NFL’s AFC championship. “ʻŌlelo Hoʻopaʻi Make,” or “Death Sentence,” features the return of several former guest stars, including Will Yun Lee, Daniel Baldwin, and Hawai‘i-based actors Jason Scott Lee and Troy A. Ignacio.

On Monday, Jan. 21, another new episode will air. “Hana I Wā ‘Ia,” or “Scandal,” will feature Richard T. Jones returning as Governor Denning.
Wendie Burbridge is a published author, playwright and teacher who lives and works in Honolulu. Reach her via Facebook and follow her on Twitter.

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  • Hi Wendie. Not the greatest episode, but I can understand that they had 3 people to vote for, so a lot would have to happen in a short time. I voted for the boss, but I’m on the west coast where the student was the ending. I’m sorry Hawaii did not get a vote, I’m not sure how they would have done it because of Hawaii’s location, but I understand your disappointment. I thought it was kind of fun, I don’t want it all the time, but it was still fun.
    I was happy to see them speak Hawaiian, and I agree we don’t need the sub titles, they usually explain what was said. So that did give something to the Hawaiian people that the rest of us did not have, they could understand what both of them were saying.
    I loved the Sang Min plot with Kono. I do feel for this guy, and I believe that they had taken Sang Min to see his son once before, watching from the car. It was a good ending to this part of the show. I liked Danny’s nephew, I hope we see him again.
    The plot was fine, I hope the gimmick worked and brought more people to see H50, after all, I would like to this show to survive. This is a great show, and yes they don’t really need it from our perspective because we would watch it anyway. But the point is to bring more people in, and this was there attempt. So I understand.
    Thanks again Wendie, always enjoy your views.

  • Hi Wendie, great article! @Diane I would also like to see this show survive and would watch it no matter what. I am a die hard fan of the actors and will support the show for their sake. I too hope it brought more people in to watch but am afraid that the gimmicks may run people off. I think one way to keep interest is to close in the gaps. Some of the story lines need to be closed up especially the one with momma McG. And then their is the one with Adams brother, what did he do with Kono’s gun? I think closing the gaps would help the regular viewers stay with it. For the most part, people love the show. There are only a handful of people who dislike certain things about it. All we can do is pray that the writers can bring the show out of it’s slump with the remaining time left and it survives for another season.

    • You may be relieved to know the show is all but guaranteed a 4th season. It’s already been sold in syndication to another network, and that requires a minimum of 88 episodes, so it will definitely be around for another season to meet that threshold, even if the ratings take another dive *knock on wood*.

  • I like the aerial shots of Ni’ihau and picked them out immediately, although it was obvious the “on the ground” scenes were shot on O’ahu. The Kaua’i dialect of Hawaiian also makes use of the “T” and “R” phonemes, (which many Ni’ihau speakers also speak, but the Ni’ihau dialect is mostly unintelligible to non-islanders, even speakers of the Kaua’i dialect). One wonders how Chin Ho could understand her. My Kaua’i Pride also compels me to point out that historians believe the Kaua’i dialect of Hawaiian is closer to what was spoken in the islands at the time of first Western contact. 🙂 And Wendie, I know you could pick out favorite part of this episode 🙂

  • This was a weird evening. While watching the show (and before they mentined Ni’ihau, I was playing on my phone and brought up Ni’ihau randomly. Boy was I surprised to see it on the show about 10 minutes later.

    I too enjoyed hearing the conversation between Chin and the lady on the island. I love to hear the Hawaiian language even though I am only beginning to learn individual words and phrases. I’m a great fan of IZ. Can’t wait to come home.

  • I’ll admit right up front that I watch H50 for the character interactions more than the procedural, and for me, the procedural did what it needed to do — provided the framework within which the stuff I like took place.

    As far as the viewer voting for the perp routine — it’s an interesting way to crank up viewer interest and potentially increase viewership by giving folks a stake in the outcome.

    I was more interested in what was going on with Sang Min (clearly putting him in place for Chin’s big Halawa adventure) and with the introduction — finally!! — of a new member of the Williams clan.

    I have to say I’m still more than a bit confused re: Eric’s arrival on O’ahu and the length of his stay, as taking his ne’er-do-well nephew (who is, one assumes, still underage, if his mother can ship him across the continent) under his roof is a decision Danny would most likely not have made lightly. It would also seem to be a commitment to more than a long weekend of browbeating.

    It seemed more than a little odd that Steve and Chin — Steve especially — seemed unaware of this addition to Danny’s household, especially as one would assume “E-Train” would have to spend a goodly while with Danny to benefit any from the time under his uncle’s wing. (Otherwise, it seems the kid was rewarded for his poor choices and behavior with a free trip to Hawaii).

    That said, Andy Lawrence did a good job with the role, and Eric would be fun to have waiting in the wings for later appearances. Certainly he was shown to have a sharp and observant mind and a keen eye, things Steve picked up on and acknowledged with an approving fist-bump and “E-Train!”

    Sang Min… it’s becoming harder and harder to remember him as the unsavory human trafficker. Will Yun Lee’s ability to turn on a dime with Sang Min and show the husband and father who just wants what’s best for his family and misses, and loves, them dearly, is always a joy to behold.

    It’s definitely nice to see H50 getting (at least in establishing shots and storyline) out to the other major Hawaiian Islands, and to see them deftly slipping in at least a “Cliff’s Notes” history and description of places like Ni’ihau. I, too, enjoyed them having dialogue taking place in Hawaiian; I’d imagine, for a Hawaiian, that’s like a Bahamian hearing someone beating Junkanoo drums — it says “home.”

  • Great job Wendie! I thought the same thing San Ming was brilliant and he and Kono were the highlight as well as the best part of show. I think Danno and his nephew were very good but yet somewhat awkward.. maybe a mention of his nephew PRIOR to episode would of been better?? I also think IF nephew is staying for awhile then he, and San Ming were in this episode to set up Sunday’s bigger episode? and maybe some others later in season??? Which would explain quite a bit of why and how the show was written and shown. I do want to add that whole pick your own ending was fun- cute “gimmick” and now time to move on to the good stuff ;=)

  • Hey Wendie! Great blog again! I have to agree that the story for this episode wasn’t the best and I wasn’t all that excited about the vote for the killer. I voted for the boss for the fun of it but also because of the three he was the only marginally fleshed out character. The voting time block was 10pm to 10:37pm and the student didn’t even appear in the episode until like 10:20. I don’t know how he even got into the mix.

    Actually, it seemed to me that this episode was written from the beginning to
    have only one killer…the boss. When Masi went to Peter with the idea and CBS liked the pitch it seemed they just adapted and filmed alternate endings for the other two. To me the motives for the TA and the student were pretty lame and were only slight variations on the theme. It really didn’t seem like this was written with the idea of 3 possible killers from the beginning. I mean, we’ve had numerous episodes over the past seasons which were so convoluted you had no idea who the killer was until the last seconds. THIS was NOT one of those. So as far as the gimmick of the vote, while a lot of fun, meh…

    I really enjoyed the scenes filmed on the other island and it was wonderful to hear some native Hawaiian being spoken. It sure is a pretty sounding language and I liked that they didn’t use subtitles. Subtitles make you look down at the words instead of the person speaking and that would have been a crime because she was just so beautiful and her voice so mesmerizing. I’m very happy they did it the way they did.

    I liked Eric a lot even if Bert is right about the timing of his arrival and the logistics of his stay. His wise cracking with Danny was spot on and it’s nice to see Danny be authoritarian with someone besides Steve! LOL And, Sang Min? Well, that was just awesomeness every minute he is on screen. That’s all. They really need to find a way to get him on more! He is priceless!

    All in all, I enjoyed the episode but it won’t go down as one of my all time favorites and I hope they don’t do the vote thing again unless they manage to write it better.

    • I think you are right about not really planning for this vote thing. Peter says he would like to make it only and annual event But if they do it again I think they will write specifically for the ep so if they do it again I think they will write specifically for the ep.

  • Hi Wendie! Not the very best epi but it was enjoyable. I found the rhythm off, choppy almost which made it hard for me to follow. Danny’s nephew Eric did a good job and I hope he sticks around a bit, maybe he’ll learn something from Fong! I enjoyed the native Hawaiian woman speaking with Chin and Steve’s face was priceless when he was mistakenly thought to be the coed’s dad! There seems to be a lot of effort in making bad guys good – Sang and Adam. I felt a little for Sang last night – he and Kono were the best in the show IMHO. It was a different Idea but I hope they won’t do it again. I understand that the young boy, Xander, who played the sick child and isn’t an actor, is truly sick in real life with cancer and suffered a setback shortly after the episode was filmed. I hope he fights a real good fight and kicks cancers butt to the curb! He’s in my prayers. I’m really looking forward to a H5-0 triple play weekend!!

  • Great column again, Wendie. I’m always here on Tuesdays to get your take on the show because you always take a local Hawaiian angle. It helps me learn about the islands. Just for you information, if you watch the show on with closed captioning enabled, you can read “English subtitles” of the Hawaiian dialogue between Chin and the Ni‘ihau resident. No mention is made in the CC that they are speaking Hawaiian, which is normally the case.

  • Hey, Wendie! So nice to have a new episode to talk about! I think we are in close agreement this week! The procedural was okay, nothing really popping, but – a nod to Bert Hayling here – it did the job it was meant to do! Even though I didn’t get to vote in the “choose the villain” game, it was fun to see who other fans thought was the baddie. I find it interesting that the East Coast viewers and the West Coasters voted for different villains. Personally, I think the T.A. had the best reason for popping his boss, but I didn’t count.

    Danny and “E-train! Danny is no push over – who knew? I loved this side story! Eric obviously inherited many of Danny’s traits, but didn’t have the stability in his life to steer clear of trouble. Uncle Danno to the rescue to set his wayward nephew right! Can I say I love the e-mail sent to everyone in Danny’s contact list – and Steve and Chin’s guffaws!

    The best, absolute best, part of the episode was Sang Min and Kono’s little adventure! Kono played the put-upon officer of the law beautifully, while Sang Min had me smirking, too! I do find myself with a soft spot in my heart for this character – it has become hard to remember he was a notorious human trafficker in the pilot! It was certainly a clever way to get Sang Min back on the Island and in place for the big Chin event!

    I enjoyed listening to the dialog between Chin and the lovely lady portraying the native Ni’ihau woman. A beautiful language, for sure, and easy enough to assume what was being said without sub titles.

    Thanks, Wendie, for being so dedicated that you can get such a thoughtful review up and posted so quickly! It’s certainly appreciated!,


  • People who watched on the east coast of Canada didn’t get to vote, either. I noticed that while the Hawaiian language was not subtitled, it was closed-captioned — in English! The sick boy didn’t have cancer but adreoleukodystrophy — the disease treated by “Lorenzo’s oil.”

  • Wendy, I love reading your blog with your wonderful insights into the Hawai’ian culture & language. While I love this show, I too am getting worried about too many gimmicks at the expense of good story telling. The “vote” was a perfect example of network execs trying to bridge social networking with TV, and doing it badly. There is a place for it, but they haven’t figured out the best way to do this without sacrificing the quality of the content. Last season the blatant product placements were embarrassing. I can only imagine how embarrassing it must have been to the wonderful actors on this show. I remember how well Lost used social media and created excitement amoungst their fans. I can only hope that CBS would learn from their successes and go back to giving us good quality stories and entertainment. Mahalo!

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